Rediscovering Diving In The Galapagos
Sometimes, what I’ve known gets in the way of what I could learn.
I realized that what I knew just stood in my way when I first moved to Panama. That was summed up in an ‘aha’ moment as I stood looking at the giant marble compass in the Foreign Ministry building. It pointed directly due east to the Pacific Ocean which just should not, could not be true from the west coast of the Americas. And when I moved to Ecuador from Panama, I couldn’t get used to how ‘not’ green Ecuador was after how lush and green Panama was. At first, it did not seem as pretty. What I knew was in my way.
The same has been true of diving in the Galapagos. It is so different from diving I’ve known in the Caribbean or any other warm water diving. Warm water diving was about a dive skin at the most, but usually just a bathing suit. It was about colorful fish and colorful reefs and long, clear visibility. The Galapagos is not the same as the Caribbean and perhaps if it were, it would not be considered one of the top dive destinations in the world. I keep seeing different positions on various dive charts, and while it’s always in the Top 10, more often than not, it’s in the Top 5 dive sites…that’s in the world folks! And I’m so thrilled to be learning why.
I was diving out in the Galapagos again last week and this time, por fin!! I got to see a school of hammerheads at close range. And unlike all those photos from a perspective of above or below them, we were beside them…at eye level. They were about 15 feet away at the most. I could not get over how girthy they were. In all of those above and below shots, hammerheads seem svelte. Nope. They are heavyset sharks. And those eyes on the side of that primitive scalloped head are amazing. They seem curious about us, but just swam by while we remained motionless as though watching them on TV. That was Mosqueras where apparently, it is relatively rare to see schools of hammerheads and where before, I had only seen 2 individuals and mistook one for a Galapagos Shark due to that girthy body.
Galapagos diving has spoiled me quickly. Yes, of course, there are amazingly colorful fish and even corals. You have to appreciate the lapis blue nudibranch against a red and mustard yellow background. Beyond the colors you find diving anywhere, what is so very different in the Galapagos from anywhere else I’ve been is the sheer volume of the schools of fish. Galapagos grunt in the hundreds. Barracudas in the hundreds. Large cushion starfish are so abundant as are eels. And yes, a school of hammerheads. We couldn’t quite tell how many were there, probably 18 or so. Still, how very cool to finally see! I’ve waited forever to see that. Hoping to see schools of hammerheads was the only reason I did the live-aboard in the Texas Flower Gardens all those years ago. Didn’t see a one, but as I documented in my last journal, I will never forget the bioluminescent jelly.
My second dive that day was Daphne Minor. We descended into deep water with virtually no visibility and a swift current. It could have been slightly unsettling, though complete trust in my dive master, Macarron, alleviated any concerns. I just made sure to stay close enough to be able to see someone else’s fins. Soon enough, the visibility was Galapagos good and marine life was Galapagos abundant. By now, I had began to take large rays for granted: mantas, sting rays, sartens, eagle rays. And as I said before, white tipped reef sharks are just big fish to me now. On this dive, we entered a cave and drove out some resting white tipped sharks. Once again, we just sat on our knees for awhile as though watching Underwater TV. It’s really quite cool to just sit there and see what swims by. On this day, it was ‘raining’ tiny jellies…medusas…the kind with long stringy tentacles that can sting even in this small size. Apparently, when large, they can kill. For the first time, for reasons other than temperature, I was glad to be in a wetsuit, even if it was waaayyy too big for me. The alternative was too small as I had not tried on suits before heading out. I still struggle a bit with my buoyancy in those thick wetsuits and learned the other day that the water out there is 4-6% more salty than seawater therefore adding to the buoyancy. One other thing I loved about Dahne Minor was the fantastic current along the western walls. It had been a long time since I could just glide / ride a current. It’s like flying. I could almost just cease to look and simply feel. God did it feel good.
The Galapagos is the rock star of destinations on this planet. And diving is their biggest hit -not merely an immediate guilty pleasure that soon fades into obscurity, but rather the timeless type that never grows old and never fails to transport you into some other beautiful world.